Portland Timbers 2 will kick of their 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup campaign Tuesday, when they travel to take on the Michigan Bucks of the USL Premier Development League (4:30pm PT, STREAM).
The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, which began in 1913 as the National Challenge Cup, is the oldest ongoing national soccer competition in the United States and the third-longest continuously running domestic open soccer tournament in the world.
Historically, the tournament had only been open to amateur clubs, but in 1995, the Cup kicked off what is considered its modern era when professional and semi-professional clubs from the United States Interregional Soccer League (USISL) and the A-League were permitted to enter the competition.
That same year, the Richmond Kickers, now of the USL, won the tournament, defeating the El Paso Patriots on penalty kicks in the final.
Since MLS clubs first entered the tournament in 1996, they have won an astounding 18 of 19 possible U.S. Open Cup titles. The only non-MLS club to win the U.S. Open Cup in that span was the Rochester Rhinos, who defeated the Colorado Rapids 2-0 in the 1999 final.
The only other non-MLS club to even reach the final in that span was the Charleston Battery, who lost 2-1 to D.C. United in 2008.
Still, lower division clubs have played spoiler on numerous occasion, and it is not unprecedented for NASL and USL clubs to advance as far as the quarterfinals or semifinals of the tournament.
Ahead of the 2015 tournament, U.S. Soccer has made several notable changes to the Open Cup format.
First, this year's tournament features a record number of 91 competing teams, including the 17 American clubs from MLS, nine from NASL, twenty-one from USL, and 44 amateur clubs.
Second, the sixteen winners from the tournament's fourth round will split into geographically-based groups of four.
Third, new rules prohibit teams under the same ownership from meeting at any point in the tournament except the final. So any potential match between T2 and its parent club, Portland Timbers, will have to wait until the final in September.
T2's Tuesday opponent, the Michigan Bucks, play in the fourth tier of the U.S. soccer pyramid in the USL PDL A minor league affiliate of Columbus Crew SC, the Bucks are the defending USL PDL champions having won the title last year with a 1-0 victory over the Kitsap Pumas. Michigan advanced in the U.S. Open Cup this year after defeating in-state rival FC Detroit City 2-0 at home last week.